January 18, 2005 4:08 PM PST

Google aims to outsmart search tricksters

Google will introduce new technology controls to thwart people using blogs to manipulate rankings in its search results.

Otherwise known as "link" or "comment spam," the ruse is as old as Web marketing. Such Web site promoters use the comment form on forums, blogs or any Web page to place or gain a link pointing back to their own Web site. And because Google and other search engines tabulate search results in part by a Web page's link popularity with other sites, the trick can boost a site's ranking--and more importantly, traffic. It can also produce irrelevant search results.

In the age of blogging, the problem has grown acute because publishers have little recourse to stop outsiders from littering their comment forms with bogus links, short of shutting them down or inserting password protections.

Late Tuesday, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google plans to detail in its own blog a new tactic for blocking link spammers, according to a company representative.

Danny Sullivan, a search engine expert, said that Google plans to give publishers a new control, or tag, that they can insert onto a Web page to indicate that comments or links are not their own or of lesser value to the search engine. Called a "no follow" tag, the control when placed before pages of blog comments will signal to Google as it indexes the Web that the pages are to be overlooked. That will render comment spam ineffectual.

"The tag provides you a way to flag links that are basically not yours. The reason why that's helpful is because they won't count those links," said Sullivan, who added that the problem won't go away entirely. "It makes the idea of comment spamming less attractive."

Sullivan said that the indexing tag will be the first innovation in almost 10 years for publishers. The last was a tag to avoid being indexed entirely by the search engines. "It's nice to see the search engines give Web authors a new tool to control how we're indexed," he said.

Other blog companies are on board, too. Yahoo and MSN Search have agreed to support the initiaboardtive. Six Apart, which operates professional and individual blog-publishing services, said Tuesday that it will immediately adopt the tagging standard for its roughly 6.5 million blogs. That means that people who publish using Six Apart's Typepad will automatically have tags on their blogs delineating between content they publish and that of third parties who use a comment form. Professionals using Six Apart's Moveable Type application will be newly equipped with a plug-in to do the same.

"We're interested in deploying this tool so that all the search engines, whether it's Google, Yahoo or MSN, can properly distinguish content published by the author from content from commentors," said Anil Dash, vice president of the professional network at Six Apart.

Rumors of the new controls have been circulating in recent days on several blogs including Micro Persuasion and Scobleizer. The Scobleizer blog is penned by Microsoft employee Robert Scoble.

Steve Rubel, a blog evangelist and vice president of CooperKatz, a public relations firm, said the move is significant because blogs factor heavily into search engine rankings and that makes them a target for spammers. The "no follow" tag should mitigate the problem, he said.

"It's a welcome move that the blogsphere will cheer," Rubel said.

5 comments

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Good move.
Now I'm just waiting to find out Google is developing its own Blog-only search tool, and keeping Blogs seperate from the main search.

NWLB
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Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That tag has always been there
what is so new about this? I admit I never thought of using it for the blog-control purpose, but this is not new or proprietary to Google from what I can see. I saw that tag included in the first seo tutorials I used.

Also, what about legitimate discussion that leads to use of a link? Many blogs encourage this, and when it is in context it should not necessarily be considered "spamming". I would hope that such commentary could show up in a secondary part of the search page so that comments can be found. Sometimes a blog discussion of a website is more informative than the website itself.
Posted by (14 comments )
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Comments should be moderated....
Comment spam only exists on blogs that do not moderate comments or do not perform regular house keeping chores to delete comment spam. The no follow tag will not be used on such sites...

Such blogs could be considered abandoned and thus of little value to searchers and excluded from Google's database.
Posted by foremski (9 comments )
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Just Moderate it
No follow is really just shady. People are kind enough to post in your blog, so reward them by giving sme link juice.

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Posted by astawerksdotcom (6 comments )
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even here
they are filtering urls
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.xtremedirectory.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.xtremedirectory.com</a>
Posted by astawerksdotcom (6 comments )
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